Don’t go animal crackers

Print Friendly

Cats, squirrels, rabbits and muntjacs are just a few of the uninvited visitors who can gorge on your plants and ruin your crops.

Hannah Stephenson looks at ways to keep them at bay ….

The other day, I wandered up the garden to find that some of my favourite emerging phlox had been razed to the ground, devoured by something which left just the stems at ground level.

Rabbits? Could be. But no, the next day the culprit returned for second helpings – a large black cat with a penchant for perennials, so now I’m keeping a powerful water pistol by my patio door to scare off any such intruders.

Indeed, one man’s pet is another man’s pest so it’s useful to know how to control them.

And it is often a matter of trial and error. What works for one gardener may be of no value to another. The only real deterrent may be a six-foot-high fence all the way around your garden, buried about 45cm (18in) into the soil so rabbits and other tunnelling creatures have less of a chance of penetrating your boundaries.

However, fences can be expensive and are often not easy to erect if you have mature shrubs and trees growing on your boundary line, so here’s a few solutions you might try to deter some of the nuisance animals into your garden.

CATS: There are a number of battery-operated deterrents on the market which, when switched on, pick up movement with an infra-red detector and then emit ultrasonic, high-pitched frequencies that reputedly scare off the culprits. They are not audible to humans and the usual range is about 10m (33ft) over an arc of 70 degrees.

Another solution is to put down citrus peelings or lemon scent where the cats are causing the damage, or prickly prunings around their favourite plants.

They are less likely to use your garden as a litter tray if they have no access to bare soil – especially dry, loose soil. If you have a gravelled area, try replacing it with larger stone chippings or pebbles.

Unwanted CDs can be threaded on twine with knots in between to keep them apart. String these across flower beds or hang from trees, and the light reflections will deter cats.

Try growing the annual Coleus Canina, labelled as the ‘Scaredy Cat Plant’, a pretty blue-flowered annual which smells foul to cats. It’s widely available online.

RABBITS: These fast-breeding mammals can cause massive damage to vegetables and flowers and are a particular problem in rural areas. The only real defence is a rabbit-proof fence buried around 45cm (18in) into the soil and about 1m (3ft) high. You could also try growing plants which rabbits don’t like, such as very aromatic plants, plants that ooze caustic milky sap, prickly plants, plants with spines or plants with tough leathery leaves. These include astilbe, berberis, agapanthus, nicotiana, hydrangea, geranium, euphorbia, hypericum, helenium, rudbeckia and phormium, but there are many more. Be warned, though, if they are really hungry, rabbits will eat anything.

SQUIRRELS: The scourge of bird-lovers nationwide, squirrels will steal bird food from any receptacle it can get to, but there are now a lot of squirrel-proof feeders on the market to deter them. They can also damage plants, as they eat bulbs, shoot tips and flower buds, as well as stripping the bark from trees. The only really effective protection is to secure net-covered cages for groups of plants and individual tree guards to stop them stripping the bark.

FOXES: They can dig up clumps of your lawn, flower beds and vegetable plots, but alas there’s not much you can do about foxes. Avoid using fertilisers such as blood, fish and bone, which will attract them to the smell. Go to your local zoo and speak to the keepers about getting some lion urine, which apparently foxes hate because of the smell. Sprinkle it over the entrance to and exit from their run and you may deter them. Aside from that the only way forward is an electric fence.

MUNTJAC: These nuisance deer, natives of southeast Asia, strip rose bushes of buds, chew their way through shrubs and perennials and are territorial, so tend to return. Aside from putting a 6ft fence around your garden, you could try growing plants they’re not so keen on, including camellia, cistus, hellebore, hosta, hydrangea, lavender, poppies and sedum. Be warned, they do like geraniums, sweet Williams, clematis and roses, but if they’re starving they’ll eat anything.

If you want to preserve the balance of nature, you could grow alternative food for the deer, allowing an area at the end of your garden to be devoted to brambles, rowan, dandelion, campion and yarrow. Hopefully the deer will prefer these to your favourite roses.


These pretty, delicate-looking perennials which come in shades of white, pink and deep red are wonderful for the middle of a border, growing the around 60cm (2ft) and spreading to make excellent ground cover. They spread rapidly, so you can increase your stock by digging up clumps and dividing them every couple of years. The small pin-cushion flowers appear above the foliage from June to August and they will grow in any soil in sun or partial shade. Thanks to their subtle colours, astrantias fit into most planting schemes. Good varieties include A. major ‘Hadspen Blood’, which produces deep red flowers above elegant green foliage, and A. major involucrata ‘Shaggy’, which has white flowers with a collar of extra long petals.

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT – Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

These members of the onion family look great in the vegetable patch, or at the front of a flower border, with their pretty purple lollipop flowers. Even if you don’t like the taste of chives you can appreciate them as an ornamental. The flowers make a colourful addition to salads, while the onion-flavoured stems make a great addition snipped into sour cream for a delicious dip or jacket potato filling, or simply added to a salad instead of salad onions. These perennials are generally trouble-free, coming back year after year with no fuss. Plant pot-grown plants out in late spring or summer, water them in and keep them weeded and watered in dry spells. Remove faded flower heads and stalk to keep plants looking tidy through the summer. The most popular variety is the purple Allium schoenoprasum but you can also obtain rarer white chives (A. schoenoprasum ‘White Form’) from specialist herb farms.

THREE WAYS TO… Perk up a shady patio

1. Consider filling a container with shade-tolerant plants including white busy Lizzies, purple heliotropes, nemesia and evergreen lamium.

2. Brighten up a shady wall with a climbing clematis, many of which are shade tolerant. Try large-flowered hybrids in dappled shade such as C. ‘Hagly Hybrid’, whose pretty pink flowers stay true to their colour until you put them in the sun, or C. alpina, the alpine clematis, with its dainty blue, bell-like flowers.

3. Make the most of architectural specimens which like shade, including hostas and ferns, positioning pots of them around a focal point such as a statue.


:: Pinch out side shoots of sweet peas being grown as cordons

:: Pick off the dead flowerheads of rhododendrons and azaleas

:: Recycle grass cuttings, composting them or using them as a mulch around trees and bushes

:: Plant out dahlias and chrysanthemums raised from cuttings, staking them to support the flower stems as they grow

:: Feed flowering plants and shrubs with a general fertiliser, hoeing it into the soil surface and water in if the weather remains dry

:: Sow a few seeds of salad crops like lettuce and radish every fortnight during summer

:: Plant out ridge cucumbers in cold frames

:: Pinch out the soft tips of broad bean plants to reduce the risk of blackfly

:: Continue to plant out marrows, courgettes and squashes outside

:: Lift and divide congested clumps of flag iris after flowering

:: Raise new plants of azaleas, magnolias and other shrubs by layering low-growing shoots of young growth to soil level. Keep the soil around shoots layered early in the year constantly moist

:: Scoop out duckweed from your pond using a small fishing net

:: Continue to feed greenhouse plants in pots and growing bags at least once a week

The following two tabs change content below.
Hello ... I am the Creative Director and Website Editor for Silversurfers and manage all the social media too. I hope you find the features and articles we have shared with you of interest and relevance. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us ... I hope you enjoy Silversurfers and all that we offer ...

Latest posts by Silversurfers Editor (see all)

Not a member?

Join the silversurfers community today! It's free, easy to do, and is packed full of features and amazing offers!

Join the community!
Click here if you have forgotten your password

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!

More Garden

Peter's Autumn Gardening tips gardening, season, autumn and fruits concept - close up of wicker basket with ripe red apples and leaves on wooden table
Another record breaking autumn. Fabulous Indian summer, highest temperatures recorded of the year...
Perk Up Your Patio Pots For Autumn Flowers
If your summer containers are looking tired, make the most of autumn by giving your pots a fresh...
Peter's Gardening Tips for September Midsection of woman carrying crate with freshly harvested vegeta
September is called the “Seed Scattering” month.  This is a great time for seed gathering be...
Peter's Gardening tips for late summer Organic ripe apples ready to pick on tree branches
This years  s ummer gardening can be described as challenging!     June was so wet...
Peter’s Gardening tips for August 2016 Purple pink blue and red Hydrangea flowers
The weather has been very unpredictable again this summer! Such a mixture of sunshine and showers...
Weird and wonderful tips to eradicate pests in the garden! two big snails on a green hosta leafs
Not keen on using chemicals in the war against the pests in your garden? Here are some tips that...
Peter's Gardening tips for June Pink roses,beautiful pink roses blooming in the garden
This month I am focussing on scent in your garden. Scent to my mind is one of the most important...
Environet UK – a Leading Japanese Knotweed Removal Specialist 1 Flowering Japanese knotweed in garden logo
Environet specialises in removing Japanese knotweed using eco-innovative methods. Knotweed is now...
Peter's Gardening tips for May 2016 Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) pink flower. Green leafs of rhododendron are in the background.
The long wait for Spring has finally happened and WOW what an explosion of growth, colours to...
Peter's Gardening Tips for April 2016 IMAG0121
What a contrast this Spring is to last year. We were desperate for the rain and it was warm!...
The best spring gardens for 2016 Bodnant Gardens
Gardens are never more beautiful than in the blooms of spring; the vibrant flowers, lush greens...
Peter’s Gardening Tips for March 2016 Wild crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) blooming in a back lit garden lawn in the first sun rays in spring
A tricky month March, the weather can be so fickle. 2016 spring is going to be a harsh start to...